The Middle East Channel

Israelis and Palestinians strike prison deal ahead of “Nakba” protests

An estimated 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have agreed to end a hunger strike that has lasted nearly a month in a deal brokered by Egypt and assisted by Jordan after Israel promised better conditions. Three Palestinian men began the hunger strike on February 28, refusing food for 77 days, and were joined by ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

An estimated 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have agreed to end a hunger strike that has lasted nearly a month in a deal brokered by Egypt and assisted by Jordan after Israel promised better conditions. Three Palestinian men began the hunger strike on February 28, refusing food for 77 days, and were joined by almost one third of the Palestinian prisoners in one of the longest and largest hunger strikes. The attorney for two of the men who have been fasting the longest and are reported to be nearing death, Bilal Diab and Taer Halahleh, has said the two will continue their strike. Israel has agreed to allow family visits for around 400 prisoners from Gaza for the first time since 2006 and about 20 prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement have been returned to the general prison population. Israeli officials, have not committed to halting the practice of detention without levying formal charges or holding trials, called "administrative detentions." However, it appears that the prison sentences for those currently held without charge will not have their sentences extended. In exchange, the Palestinian prisoners have committed to "completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons." Both the Israelis and Palestinians were eager to negotiate an end to the hunger strike to diffuse tensions prior to the "Nakba," or catastrophe, celebrated by Israelis as the anniversary of their 1948 declaration of independence and commemorated by Palestinians with protests. 

Syria

The militant group in Syria, Al-Nusra Front, has denied responsibility for two suicide car bombs last Thursday that targeted a security complex and killed at least 55 people. The group released a statement on jihadist forums after a video had been posted claiming the organization had committed the attacks in response to regime bombings of residential areas. Al-Nusra Front said, "this video as well as the statement appearing in it are fabricated and…full of errors." Meanwhile, the Syrian government has announced the results of last week’s parliamentary elections which they reported had a 51 percent voter turnout. The opposition boycotted the election they called a "farce." According to the Guardian, the results were difficult to interpret. The Syrian National Council has reelected Burhan Ghalioun of the opposition group in exile. Ghalioun has the backing of the Gulf States and France, but has been criticized for his inability to unify the opposition.

Headlines  

  • After three days of intense clashes in Tripoli, the Lebanese armed forces put a stop to the fighting, which has been attributed by some as spillover from the Syria conflict.
  • Air strikes in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan killed 42 people including suspected al Qaeda militants and civilians.
  • Iran hanged Majid Jamili Fashi who was accused of being an Israeli Mossad agent convicted for killing a suspected Iranian nuclear scientist.
  • Human Rights Watch reported that a secret prison and alleged torture site that was ordered to be closed over a year ago is still operating in Iraq.

Arguments and Analysis

‘An unsettling situation’ (Bill Van Esveld, EuropeanVoice.com)

"What should Europe do about Israel’s construction of settlements and destruction of Palestinians’ homes and other property on the West Bank? When the Foreign Affairs Council discusses this issue on Monday (14 May), its priority should be to replace the current, incoherent approach with a strategy based on clear principles. Europe provides millions of euros in humanitarian aid to Palestinians harmed by Israel’s settlement policies. These same policies have hindered aid efforts: the Israeli military has destroyed European-funded projects, and imposes planning restrictions that have reduced European donors to assisting Palestinians rendered homeless."

‘Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is gaining influence over anti-Assas revolt’ (Liz Sly, Washington Post)

"After three decades of persecution that virtually eradicated its presence, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has resurrected itself to become the dominant group in the fragmented opposition movement pursuing a 14-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Exiled Brotherhood members and their supporters hold the biggest number of seats in the Syrian National Council, the main opposition umbrella group. They control its relief committee, which distributes aid and money to Syrians participating in the revolt. The Brotherhood is also moving on its own to send funding and weapons to the rebels, who continued to skirmish Saturday with Syrian troops despite a month-old U.N.-brokered cease-fire."

‘Building Libya’s new media ‘from a void’" (D. Parvaz, Al Jazeera English)

"Going from being a country with a highly controlled press to one that has free, independent and functioning media in roughly a year is a tall order. This is true even for Libyans, who, last year, did what seemed impossible, and freed their nation from Muammar Gaddafi’s iron grip. But Gaddafi’s four-decade rule has left its scars everywhere, including the nation’s newsrooms, which, for so long, acted as nothing more than the propaganda machine of the "Brother-Leader". Despite the initial revolutionary surge of entrepreneurial journalists, finally free to report on the horrors of the Gaddafi era, what remains is a struggle to understand the type of media a budding democracy needs – and what it takes to build it."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

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